The Battle of the Belts
Local anti al-Qaeda organizations, called Awakening Movements, have been organized in the four provinces surrounding Baghdad. Al-Qaeda responds by targeting the tribal leaders. Bill Roggio describes the war for the grassroots.
Awakening movements have now been effectively established in the four provinces surrounding Baghdad. The Government of Iraq is funding the military arm of the movements, and incorporating the local tribal forces into provincial police forces. This movement is an integral part of the attempt to secure Baghdad and the outlying belts, where al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents have established networks from which they launch deadly suicide attacks inside the capital. The movements in Babil, Diyala, and Salahadin are still in their infancy, and the Iraqi government and Multinational Forces Iraq must take care to protect their leaders and support their efforts in the military, political, economic, and reconstruction spheres.
Al-Qaeda has responded with a campaign of assassination against local leaders who have thrown in with the US and the Iraqi government. But the US has been throwing punches to the head of the enemy too. Roggio reports at the Weekly Standard how one Coalition led by America, is fighting the leaders of another coalition consisting of al-Qaeda and Iran. It is a battle between alliances.
In Baghdad yesterday, Coalition and Iraqi raids were largely focused on the Mahdi Army. Also, Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a Mahdi Army commander in the Kadamiyah district in central Baghdad yesterday. The Mahdi commander "is alleged to be responsible for providing financial, logistical, and political support for multiple insurgent groups and terrorist organizations" and is also "suspected of overseeing the training of insurgent recruits on terrorist methods including the construction and detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosively Formed Projectiles."
Two more Mahdi operatives were captured in Sadr City today. "They are believed to be members of the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training," according to the Multinational Forces Iraq press release. Seventeen members of this network have been killed and 41 captured during numerous raids over the past three weeks.
Also, during a raid in Khanaqin, Coalition forces captured a "liaison to al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders, who assists in the movement of information and documents from al-Qaeda in Iraq leadership in Baghdad to al-Qaeda senior leaders in Iran." Al Qaeda leaders such as Saif al Adel and Said bin Laden, Osama's son, are being sheltered in Iran along with an estimated 100 al Qaeda senior operatives.
This is not as strange as it seems. The wars of the 20th century, including the Cold War, were conflicts between alliances. Sometimes alliances were created in the middle of the conflict. Battlefields assumed a particular importance within those contexts simply because they were places where the opposing forces could come to grips. Empty expanses of steppe, distant countries and isolated coordinates in the ocean roared with a fury because this was where the enemies clashed. The provinces around Baghdad, and perhaps Iraq itself is where the action is happening now.